I am not some big corporate guy. You probably make more money than I do. But I find a way to help others financially, not that I feel I have a moral or divine obligation to do so. I just feel that it's the right thing to do, but most importantly, because I am a product of philanthropy myself. I was on scholarship from high school 'till college. And this example of my benefactors helped me see the universe as a product of meaningful accidents or fate and fortune. It was an accident that I was born a Filipino citizen that's why I was not eligible for a working holiday visa when I was 25 and wanted to pick apples in Australia for a living and a holiday. Some Yoshihiro could do that because he was, by fate, born in Japan. And he could earn 3 months' worth of my salary, (just working at 7-Eleven in one month) because he was accidentally living in that society. But we can't just whine about our fate and envy others' fortune. We can choose to emancipate ourselves from this bondage of fate, and eventually make our own destiny. The inspiring story of Apo Elmer, whose dream to ride an airplane was realized all because he did what he was born to do--farming--and firmly believed in that dream, is a good example of making one’s own destiny.
Josiah Ballagan has a similar story. He was just doing what he was born to do--run--when I met him at their home on the foothills of Mt Tabayoc in Benguet. I saw his great potential as an athlete so I registered him in The North Face 100 (50K, CamSur) in 2011 where he finished 4th. It was his first trail race. It was 50km and he was still barely 17 then. In 2012, he finished second in The North Face 100 Baguio (50K). That same year, with the help of the Philippine Skyrunning Association and the benevolent Nestor Fongwan, the then governor of Benguet, I sent him to the Mt Kinabalu International Climbathon in Malaysia where he finished just 37 minutes behind the world champion Kilian Jornet. His outstanding performance in that international race prompted the governor to give him a full scholarship at Benguet State University. Four years after that run, he earned a college degree and now he has a job.
I prefer this idea of effecting a change—where you focus on an individual instead of a big community. I am not a fan of one-time-big-time outreach programs. Sometimes, the proud selfies of the donors last longer that the slippers they donate. Like I said, I am not some big organization. I can only effect a very little change in this world. I cannot help a whole community in a long term case. But with the help other little hands and small pockets, I can help create a lasting change in an individual.
And this year, we've seen two individuals brimming with talent—the elite runners from Antique, John Ray Onifa and Rene John Ello. However, little hands and little pockets can only afford to help one individual so we've chosen Onifa. We saw his running caliber when he breezed through the 21K race in Tracing Iraynon-Bukidnon Trails in Antique. Through the help of some individuals and organizations (who I really want to mention here but whose preference for anonymity we need to respect), the proceeds of the lagataw shirt was able to support Onifa in two of his trail races in Luzon—the Salomon Xtrail 32K and Soleus Cross-Country Challenge 12K- where he emerged champion (in both events).
Seeing the talent of this promising athlete, the office of the governor of Antique, Rhodora Cadiao (coincidentally a party-mate of former governor Fongwan of Benguet) through the Provincial Youth Development Office headed by Rexon Nodque, gave Onifa a job and a scholarship grant. Onifa couldn't contain his joy when he heard this news. He couldn't believe that great things could come just by being the best that you can be—whatever you are: a farmer, a fisherman or a runner. After TIBT, he has added more trophies and titles to his already large collection, the most recent of which is the Milo Marathon qualifier in Iloilo. But we want to extend this feat overseas. We're sending him to The North Face 100 Thailand in February 2018. And we need more small hands and pockets.
In this world of meaningful accidents and fate, you can choose between two things—you can be one who firmly believes in your dream and tries to be the best of who you can be, or you can choose to be the wind beneath that believer's wings.
Join me in sending Onifa to the finish line in The North Face 100 Thailand 2018.
|dri-fit; neon green|
Get a piece of this limited edition shirt. When you wear this shirt, it may not remind you of a mountain that you have conquered or a monument that you have visited. But let this shirt remind you that you have helped in creating a lasting change in this world.
Even the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can create a hurricane halfway across the Earth.
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